It was a windy 37-degree Saturday in December, yet Rick Nagas, his wife, children and a family of in-laws had driven more than an hour to visit Fifer Orchards in Camden-Wyoming.
“We’ve been here numerous times,” says Nagas, while he watches his daughter eat an apple from the farm. They also drive up for strawberries in the spring, peaches in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.
While the produce is good at Fifer’s, it isn’t the thought of agricultural products that got the Nagases out the door that day, it was the idea of fun on the farm. It was Ciderfest, after all.
They had taken hay rides, roasted marshmallows, talked to Santa, sipped hot cider, ate hot dogs, played games and shopped in the Fifer Country Store along with 200 other people.
“I like the farm atmosphere,” says Nagas. “I can bring my family here and it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.”
“I understand you buy stuff,” he says while laughingly surveying the bag of kettle corn his daughter was holding along with the other goods they had bought that day. “They’re cashing out on us, but we’re having a great time.”
That is the idea behind the bevy of agritourism destinations throughout Kent County—boosting sales by getting more people out to have fun on the farm year-round.
There are pick-your-own stands, petting zoos, holiday events, farm tours, wine tastings and at least one bull riding event in the county.
For more information and other places to dine, drink, buy, play and stay at Kent County farms, go to the Delaware Department of Agriculture web page at agriculture.delaware.gov
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Willow Rock Gardens
“I try to keep up on Facebook,” says Tonya Lowney, of Seaford, who takes her two-year-old daughter to as many festivals on farms as she can. “They are really great for kids.”
Agritourism events such as Ciderfest at Fifer is a good way to keep people thinking about the farm once the days get shorter and colder, says Michael Fennemore, an owner/operator of Fifer Orchards.
“A lot of people move here from New Jersey and New York and their season is later,” says Fennemore. Getting people out on the farm helps them understand the different farm seasons. Festivals and events help get the word out about when produce is in season, so people don’t miss it.
That little extra that lures people out to the farms with their families and their wallets is a growing part of Delaware’s $8 billion agriculture industry.
“Agritourism presents an opportunity for Delaware consumers and our younger generations to learn where their food comes from,” says Michael T. Scuse, secretary of agriculture.
Of course, there is much more to it than just picking an apple or petting a lamb.
In the fall there are corn mazes and places to pick pumpkins. Winter brings hot cider and Christmas trees. Spring brings berries everywhere and summer has peaches and ice cream. There are farm-to-table dinners featuring popular local chefs creating incredible meals under the stars. There are hayrides and hay slides and even zip lines at some festivals. At Loblolly Acres in Woodside this past Christmas, Santa read fireside stories to children—while their parents shopped.
Several farms, such as Harvest Ridge Winery, are year-round destinations with people stopping by for dinner with a glass of the vineyard’s wine or attending an event in the banquet room. The farmers and local artisans often work together, like in creating the hand-made duck calls and homemade glass ornaments at Loblolly Acres or the hand-knit scarves at Willow Rock Gardens in Clayton.
“We come here often,” says Peter Ipnar, of Clayton, at a local farm festival. “There’s lots to do and friendly people.”